Making groups open and welcoming


This briefing provides groups with some guidance on how groups can be open and welcoming.  All Dystonia Society Support Groups are asked to be open and welcoming to all those affected by dystonia and to members, staff and trustees of The Society. 

Each group will find its own way to be open and welcoming.  You may find it helpful to occasionally re visit this issue and ask yourself “Is there anything we could be doing differently?”.

There are some things we do expect all groups to do to be open and welcoming and these include:

  • Publicise your meetings (as far as possible including the date and type of event) in Dystonia Matters and on The Society’s web pages. Read more...
  • Send mailings, at least once a year, to all members in your area using the services of UK Office as required and giving details of group events.  Read more...
  • Welcome new members to your group.
  • Each group must agree a simple document detailing the standards of behaviour expected by the group (find an example here). The group is entitled to expect a reasonable standard of behaviour from all attendees including but not limited to being willing to listen and not dominate the conversation to a level where other people feel excluded, not being prescriptive or diagnostic about people’s conditions, not interrupting, not being aggressive, not drinking excessively or being under the influence of illegal drugs. In addition all group members need to be aware that they are not medically qualified and that their personal experiences may not be representative of others with dystonia.  A group is entitled to exclude any person who fails to adhere to standards after due warning. The group coordinator should discuss any exclusion with the CEO of The Dystonia Society before acting. It is recommended that each group agrees a short list of standards of behaviour that can be referred to in the case of any issue.

There are a variety of ways to make your group more open and welcoming – talk about how to do this with other group members.  Some ideas from other groups are listed below and more ideas can be found here.

Before meetings:  If you know new people are going to attend try and make contact beforehand; make sure the venue meets the needs of those coming to the group; if you cover a large area consider rotating the location of meetings; send a mailing with details of how to find the venue At the meeting: Use signposting at the venue to make it easier to find the meeting; meet and greet and encourage existing members to involve new members; make introductions; provide refreshments and an opportunity for people to get to know each other; encourage people to take responsibility for their group. 

After meetings: Call new members, if you have their contact details, after the meeting to see if it went okay, get their feedback and so on; follow up meetings with a newsletter or similar.

Remember these are just ideas to get you thinking about how to be open and welcoming - do what feels right for your group.  Good luck!